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K. Kris Hirst

Wine Production at Areni-1

By January 24, 2011

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A packed clay platform dated to between 3700-4200 cal BC and discovered in the cave of Areni-1 in southwestern Armenia appears to represent the earliest wine production installation yet discovered.

Armenian Stamps with Grapes
Armenian Stamps with Grapes. Post of Armenia (Haypost)

The platform sits inside the cave and is slanted downwards towards the mouth of a large jar inserted in the platform's edge. Other large jars of the same shape and size surround the platform, and together they are interpreted as ancient forms of storage jars. Desiccated grapes, grape seeds, rachises and skins, preserved in the exceptionally dry environment of Areni-1, were identified nearby. Excavators believe that grapes were crushed on the top of the platform, and the grape juice then allowed to flow down into the storage jars.

Analysis of the residues inside the storage jars identified a detectable amount of syringic acid, which is a compound known to result from a breakdown of maldivin, one of the components of red wine. That isn't conclusive evidence of the fermentation process: maldivin is also found in pomegranates or grapes, so unfermented liquids or crushed fruit could have been stored in the vessels. But... it is interesting, isn't it?

By the way, you might remember that a complete shoe was discovered in Areni-1 cave last June, representing the oldest complete shoe yet discovered.

Sources and Further Information

Barnard H, Dooley AN, Areshian G, Gasparyan B, and Faull KF. In press. Chemical evidence for wine production around 4000 BCE in the Late Chalcolithic Near Eastern highlands. Journal of Archaeological Science In Press, Corrected Proof.

Coverage elsewhere:

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